India’s two rarest birds
A fresh perspective from one of our young contributors, Maitreya Sukumar, on trivia about avifauna.
Two of India’s rarest birds are the Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa) and the Jerdon’s Courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus). We know more about the Jerdon’s Courser, 32 pairs of which were counted during the last survey in Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadappa district in 2008, according to The Hindu. The last time the bird was seen was in 2009 by two researchers from BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society).
The Jerdon’s Courser was discovered in 1848 by Thomas Claverhill Jerdon and was rediscovered in 1986 by Bharat Bhushan. It is a ground bird with long yellow legs, and looks similar to the two other coursers found in India, though it has a straight short beak unlike the other two. According to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Richard Grimmet, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp, the bird has a “broad buffish supercilium and narrow crown stripes, orange throat patch and white and brown banding across the breast.” I have seen a specimen at BNHS, and hope to see a real one soon.
Very little, however, is known about the Himalayan Quail. It was discovered in 1836 and last seen in 1876. There have been some unconfirmed reports and the bird has not been declared Extinct by the IUCN (The International Union For Conservation Of Nature). According to Threatened birds Of Uttarakhand by Dr. Asad Rafi Rahmani and Dr. Dhananjay Mohan, “there is no specimen of this endemic species in India”.
The Himalayan Quail is of the same size as other quails and lives in groups of 6-12 birds. According to Grimmet and Inskipp, “both sexes have white marks in front of and behind the eye. The male has a brownish-slate body streaked with black, a black-and-white patterned head including white supercilium and patch on ear coverts”. Interestingly, the Government of Uttarakhand has launched an effort to rediscover this elusive bird. Who knows – someone may even find it!
IN THE NEWS
Forest Owlet spotted near Mumbai
The critically endangered Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewetti) has recently been sighted near Mumbai. This discovery is important because this bird might have a bigger range that earlier thought. Previously it was spotted in the Satpura range of Central India. This bird is veryrare because for 113 years it was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1997, in the Toranmal reserve forest in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra. The discovery of this rare bird near Mumbai is indeed a very special sighting!
Giraffes could head towards extinction
The tallest animal in the world, the Giraffe (Giraffa cameleopardalis), is fast disappearing from the African savannah according to information from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation quoted in Salon.com. Already two sub-species have been listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. The cause for decline includes habitat loss and poaching. To save this charismatic animal from extinction people need to spread awareness and governments need to put laws in place.
A detective bird
An Australian wading bird called the Banded Stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus) has recently stunned scientists with its ability to find a single drop of water over vast distances. According to Australian scientists who were quoted in The Guardian, the bird can detect rain from around 1000 miles away. It heads to these lakes in the usually scorching Australian Outback to feed on brine shrimps before it breeds. These shrimps hatch when it rains. Although there is no pattern as to when these temporary lakes fill up, the stilts are able to detect them every time.
Originally published in Jan 2015 Issue of Saevus Magazine
Read also: Junglimericks: In the Crazy Wilds of India
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